16 December 2014

Taliban storm Pakistani school, killing 126

A Pakistani man comforts a student standing at the bedside of a boy who was injured in a Taliban attack on a school, at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing and wounding scores, officials said, in the worst attack to hit the country in over a year.
Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing 126 people, officials said, in the worst attack to hit the country in years.
The overwhelming majority of the victims were students at the army public school, which has children and teenagers in grades 1-10. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the assault and rushed to Peshawar to show his support for the victims.
The horrific attack, carried out by a relatively small number of militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban, a Pakistani militant group trying to overthrow the government, also sent dozens of wounded flooding into local hospitals as terrified parents searched for their children.
"My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now," wailed one parent, Tahir Ali, as he came to the hospital to collect the body of his 14-year-old son Abdullah. "My son was my dream. My dream has been killed."
The attack began in the morning hours, with about half a dozen gunmen entering the school — and shooting at random, said police officer Javed Khan. Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and started exchanging fire with the gunmen, he said. Students wearing their green school uniforms could be seen on Pakistani television, fleeing the area.
Hospital security guards carry a students injured in the shootout at a school under attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
Outside the school, two loud booms of unknown origin were heard coming from the scene in the early afternoon, as Pakistani troops battled with the attackers. Armored personnel carriers were deployed around the school grounds, and a Pakistani military helicopter circled overhead.
Details were sketchy in the face of the overwhelming tragedy. Pakistani television showed soldiers surrounding the area and pushing people back. Ambulances streamed from the area to local hospitals.
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
The information minister for the province, Mushtaq Ghani, said 126 people were killed in the attack. Most of the dead were students, children and teenagers from the school, he said. Hospital officials said earlier that at least one teacher and a paramilitary soldier were among the dead.
Pervez Khattak, the chief minister of the province where Peshawar is located, said fighting was still underway in some parts of the school.
The prime minister vowed that the country would not be cowed by the violence and that the military would continue with an aggressive operation launched in June in the North Waziristan tribal area to rout militants.
"The fight will continue. No one should have any doubt about it," Sharif said.
It was not clear how many students and staff remained still inside the facility. A student who escaped and a police official on the scene earlier said that at one point, about 200 students were being held hostage. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.
One of the wounded students, Abdullah Jamal, said that he was with a group of 8th, 9th and 10th graders who were getting first-aid instructions and training with a team of Pakistani army medics when the violence began for real.
A Pakistani girl, who was injured in a Taliban attack in a school, is rushed to a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
When the shooting started, Jamal, who was shot in the leg, said nobody knew what was going on in the first few seconds.
"Then I saw children falling down who were crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet," he said, speaking from his hospital bed.
Another student, Amir Mateen, said they locked the door from the inside when they heard the shooting but gunmen blasted through the door anyway and started shooting.
The school is located on the edge of a military cantonment in Peshawar, but the bulk of the students are civilian.
There was conflicting information about how many attackers carried out the violence, but it was a relatively small number.
Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurasani claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to media, saying that six suicide bombers had carried out the attack in revenge for the killings of Taliban members at the hands of Pakistani authorities. But the chief minister said there were eight attackers, dressed in military uniforms. Two were killed by security forces and one blew himself up, Khattak said. The rest were still fighting.
The Pakistani military spokesman, Asim Bajwa, said on Twitter that five militants had been killed and that security forces had rescued two children and two staff members.
Peshawar has been the target of frequent militant attacks in the past but has seen a relative lull recently.
Pakistani army troops arrive to conduct an operation at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
The Pakistani military launched the military operation in the nearby North Waziristan tribal area in June, vowing that it would go after all militant groups that had been operating in the region. With the launch of the operation, security officials and civilians feared a backlash by militants targeted by the military but until Tuesday, a widespread backlash had failed to materialize.
Tuesday's attack calls into question whether the militants have been crippled by the military or will be able to regroup. This appeared to be the worst attack in Pakistan since the 2008 suicide bombing in the port city of Karachi killed 150 people.
The violence also underscored the vulnerability of Pakistani schools, which was dramatically exposed in the attack two years ago on Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl shot in the head by a Taliban gunman outside her school in Swat Valley for daring to speak up about girls' rights. She survived, becoming a Nobel Prize laureate and global advocate for girls' education but out of security concerns has never returned to Pakistan.
Militants have also blown up schools in the northwest.
"I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us," said Malala in a statement. "I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters, but we will never be defeated."    
(AP)
A hospital security guard helps a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
A plainclothes security officer escorts students rescued from nearby school during a Taliban attack in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
Hospital staff transport a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
A Pakistani army soldier takes position on a bunker close to a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
Pakistanis use their mobile phones to take photographs of students who died in a Taliban attack on their school, at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
Pakistani army troops arrive to conduct an operation at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
An armored personnel carrier moves toward a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
Pakistani army troops are positioned close to a school under attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
A Pakistani woman weeps as she waits at a hospital, where victims of a Taliban attack are being treated in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
Hospital staff transport a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
Pakistani rescue workers take out students from an ambulance who injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, upon arrival at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
People carry the casket of a victim of Taliban attack in a school, after receiving it from a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
The lifeless body of a Pakistani army officer, a victim of a Taliban attack in a school, is brought to a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
The lifeless body of a Pakistani student, a victim of a Taliban attack in a school, lies in a casket at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
People gather at a hospital, where victims of a Taliban attack are being treated in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
The feet of a victim of a Taliban attack in a school are tied together at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan,Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.
A plainclothes security officer escorts students rescued from nearby school during a Taliban attack in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014.


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